Poets Killed on the First Day of the Somme, July 1, 1916

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2nd Lt. Henry FIELD.  Served with the 6th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiement. He was killed on the first day Somme during the bitter fighting for Serre, one of 836 casualties from his battalion. He was 22. Buried at Serre Road Cemetery No.2, Beaumont Hamel & Hebuterne.

Above the shot-blown trench he stands,
Tall and thin against the sky;
His thin white face, and thin white hands,
Are the signs his people know him by.
His soldier’s coat is silver barred
And on his head the well-known crest.
Above th shot-blown trench he stands,
The bright escutcheon on his breast,
And traced in silver bone for bone
The likeness of a skeleton.

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HodgsonLieutenant William Noel HODGSON, 9th Battalion, the Devonshire Regiment. Hodgson was awarded the Military Cross. In April 1916 the Battalion was in front line trenches opposite Mametz. On the opening day of the Battle of the Somme, Hodgson was killed by a bullet in the throat from German machine gun fire while taking a supply of bombs to his men in newly captured trenches near Mametz. Buried at Devonshire Cemetery, Mansel Copse, Mametz.

I, that on my familiar hill
Saw with uncomprehending eyes
A hundred of Thy sunsets spill
Their fresh and sanguine sacrifice,
Ere the sun swings his noonday sword
Must say good-bye to all of this; ~
By all delights that I shall miss,
Help me to die, O Lord.

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Lt. Alfred RATCLIFFE. Served with the 10th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment, is killed on the Somme, while attacking the German-held village of Fricourt. His battalion suffered more casualties than any other battalion on this date: 60%. Lt Ratcliffe was 29. Buried at Fricourt New Military Cemetery.

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Corporal Alexander ROBERTSON . Served with ‘A’ Company, 12th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment (Sheffield City Battalion: ‘The Sheffield Pals’). Was in same attack on Serre as Will Streets. ‘A’ & ‘C’ Companies were the first to move forward on the morning of the first day of the Somme. Met with heavy shelling, rifle & machine-gun fire. His body never found. He was 34. His name recorded on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, near Albert.

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StreetsSergeant John William STREETS . Served in the 12th. York & Lancaster Regiment. Known as “The Miner Poet”. Killed on the first day of the Somme, during the fighting for Serre. He was wounded early in the day and was returning to a dressing station when he heard that another soldier of his platoon was too badly wounded to return on his own, so Streets went back to find him. He was never seen again. He was 31. Buried Euston Road Cemetery, Colincamps.

Back to their Mother Earth this night return
Unnumbered youth along the far-flung line;
But ’tis for these my eyes with feeling burn,
That Memory doth erect a fadeless shrine ~
For these I’ve known, admired, ardently friended
Stood by when Death their love, their youth swift ended.

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Waterhouse2nd Lt. Glbert WATERHOUSE.  Served with the 2nd Battalion, Essex Regiment, which partook in the bitter hand-to-hand fighting south of the village of Serre. At the end of the day, Waterhouse was counted among the missing, presumed dead. Buried at Serre Road Cemetery No.2, Beaumont Hamel & Hebuterne.

… But the minnewerfers fell,
And the blackbird ceased his song,
And the place became a hell,
Rang with curses loud and long ~
Blackbird, chaffinch, bumble-bee
Fled away upon the wing ~
Where they sang so merrily
Other messengers now sing ~
Bumble bee is busy still,
Blackbird and the chaffinch sing
In another faery dell,
By the village on the hill;
But a devil out of hell
Tossing high explosive shell,
Gambols in the flowery dell
Where the minnewerfers fell.

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Lt. Bernard WHITE.   Served with the 20th (1st Tynside Scottish) Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers, is killed on the first day of Somme, opposite the village of La Boisselle. The 20th lost its commanding officer, 16 other officers, and 320 enlisted. One of White’s brother officers later described his death: “His platoon was the first to leave the trenches, and he himself was responsible for the direction of the attack. He led his men right across ‘No Man’s Land’ ~ here eight hundred yards broad ~ and was last seen standing on the parapet of the German trenches throwing bombs. He then disappeared, and for a short time was missing. Then his body was found and buried, with one or two other officers, who fell beside him … His death has left a very empty place in my life, for he was an exceptional man in many ways, so brilliant and full of life…”   He was 29. His name is on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, near Albert.

 

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Published in: on July 1, 2016 at 12:50 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. The poems are so bleak and poignant. Here in Canada we remember the large number of men from Newfoundland who were slaughtered at Beaumont-Hamel on July 1.


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